Porcupine Tree: Modern Progressive Rock at its Finest

Porcupine Tree

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Porcupine Tree live twice- for the Incident tour in 2009, and the Fear of a Blank Planet Tour in 2007. The band could be described as King Crimson meets Pink Floyd meets Coldplay. The music features raging guitars, psychedelic dreamscapes of synthesizers, odd time signatures and complex rhythmic arrangements, but also harmonious layered vocal choruses. It is evident that each of the band members are outstanding musicians, and amazing performers live.

The King Crimson influence is evident- especially on the Incident album. Prog Rock fans will not be disappointed by some of the Alex Lifeson (Rush) sounding guitar solos. There is not really a Coldplay influence, but Steven Wilson’s vocals are incredible, with a high range and solid quality. Unlike many harder rock bands, his vocals live are beautiful, and backed by the highly skilled vocalist and guitarist John Wesley. I like to think of the band in a similar vein as Radiohead with a clearly modern sound, integrating electronic effects and progressive elements.

The Incident is interesting, because it takes up the long lost Prog Rock tradition of the single, album-lengthed song, but does so in a way that makes the music sound fresh and distinctly modern. There are also some very catchy vocal parts that had most fo the audience singing along, in spite of the fact that the album came out just days before the San Francisco show. The show at the Warfield was awesome, the crowd very well behaved. It was, in fact ironic how well behaved they were. Over the Summer, we had to deal with a pushy crowd that forced us to leave another performance in disguist: that was the FANTASMIC LIGHT SHOW AT DISNEYLAND! Anyhow, the PPT crowd, mostly men in their 20’s and 30’s, were mellow, also contrasting the dark themes and hard-rocking nature of much of the music.

If you haven’t heard Porcupine Tree, give them a listen. If you have a chance to see them live, don’t miss it.